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Entry to Jerusalem
21:1 Now when they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,
Jesus was about to enter Jerusalem to celebrate Passover for the last time. Drawing near to the city he arrived at a village called Bethpage which is on the slopes of the Mount of Olives.
21:2 Telling them, "Go to the village ahead of you. Right away you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me.
He sent two of his disciples (we are not told their names here) into the village to obtain transport. God had foreordained that the Christ should enter Jerusalem sitting on a donkey and her colt. No one else was party to the arrangements. The colt and donkey were in their appointed place. The disciples, under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, were to untie them and bring them to him.
21:3 If anyone says anything to you, you are to say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will send them at once."
No one could actually resist this authority of the Lord, but if any one did challenge the disciples they were to reply with the words Jesus gave them. If the creator chose to commandeer his creation for his own purposes who was to stop him?
Later, at his arrest, his enemies would find that even they were in his hands (John 18:6); but here at Bethpage we see Christ exerting his absolute sovereignty and yet remaining gentle and humble.
21:4-5 This took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet: Tell the people of Zion, 'Look, your king is coming to you, unassuming and seated on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.' "
This event had been predicted by the prophet Zechariah, that Christ would show both his authority and his gentleness as he rode into Zion (Jerusalem) on a donkey’s foal. Warriors rode into battle on mighty horses, but thank God that our king is the king of peace and not a king of war.
21:6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.
Obedience to Jesus Christ always requires faith, and the disciples carried out their instructions without doubting.
21:7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.
As a mark of respect, the disciples first put their own outer coats on the donkey as both cushion and saddle before Christ rode on it.
21:8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
The same respect due to a king was shown by the great crowd of followers who had accompanied Christ from Galilee and the surrounding area. They lay their cloaks on the road, or if they had no cloaks they strewed the road with palm branches to make a carpet for the king to ride on. In modern terms we would say they “rolled out the red carpet” for the king.
21:9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those following kept shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!"
Inspired by the Spirit of God, the disciples began shouting their praises to the Lord as he entered Jerusalem. They recognised him as the Christ, the Son of David. They knew him to be the one sent by God, who would bring God’s salvation (hosanna means “Lord save us”, or salvation). They knew him to be king of the highest glory.
21:10-11 As he entered Jerusalem the whole city was thrown into an uproar, saying, "Who is this?" And the crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee."
These verses shed light on a problem connected with this passage. Many preachers have said that the same crowds who shouted “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday shouted “crucify him” less than a week later. Noting could be further from the truth. The crowds which accompanied him from Galilee shouted “Hosanna” as he entered Jerusalem. The crowds already in Jerusalem met him with hostility: “who is this?” was their discourteous question. It was this Jerusalem crowd that later shouted for his blood early one morning, as the followers from Galilee were mostly camped without the city.
Cleansing the Temple
21:12 Then Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those who were selling and buying in the temple courts, and turned over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves.
The New Testament records that Jesus had visited the temple several times before this event (e.g. Luke 2:41-42). It is quite likely that in accordance with the law, Jesus had visited the temple every year since he came of age. No doubt the buying and selling had not only started that year, which suggests that this was no sudden act of anger or passion. Christ had long planned this show of authority, and the right time had now come. He had come to rid false religion from the land and bring in the true. Disrespect for God, especially in a place of worship, is hateful to Christ in every age and generation. Modern Christians ought always to remember this.
21:13 And he said to them, "It is written, 'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are turning it into a den of robbers!"
Contrary to what some commentators have implied, Christ was not angry that the poor were being cheated. Note his words, as they disclose the reason for his anger. The holy place where God was to be worshipped, the house of God and the house of prayer, was being treated with irreverence. The matter of cheating the people (den of robbers) was a serious one, but entirely secondary to the honour and glory of his father.
What is your attitude when you come to the house of God? Do you come to meet with God in worship? Do you treat his presence with the awe it deserves? Or do you treat being in God’s presence in God’s house as something no different to sitting in your room chatting to your friends?
21:14 The blind and lame came to him in the temple courts, and he healed them.
It is always the will of God that men and women should find healing in his house and in his presence. No special occasion was needed, just the presence of Jesus. In our churches, he is present, for “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).
21:15 But when the chief priests and the experts in the law saw the wonderful things he did and heard the children crying out in the temple courts, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they became indignant
The indignation of the chief priests came from their unbelief. Had they known and accepted who Christ was, they would not have been irritated by his healing ministry or by the fact that he received praise as God in God’s temple. For a person to be angry with God reveals the true nature of their hearts, that they are enemies of God through wicked works.
21:16 and said to him, "Do you hear what they are saying?" Jesus said to them, "Yes. Have you never read, 'Out of the mouths of children and nursing infants you have prepared praise for yourself'?"
The Pharisees were so opposed to Christ that they begrudged him the praises of the children. Unbelief results in envy and jealousy. Yet Christ saw their praise as the fulfilment of scripture. The witness of the children was the greatest of the day, for who had taught them to say such things? Not their parents. It was unplanned, yet they sang spontaneously by divine inspiration. It is as if Jesus is telling the Pharisees, “listen to the children, for they will tell you the truth about me.”
21:17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there.
It is significant that although Christ had ridden triumphantly into the city, he was so unwelcome there that he was given no place to stay. He resorted on foot to a little house almost two miles away where he was welcome, quite probably the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Even Christ found the home of love to be the preferred place of lodging, rather than the palaces of the mighty (Prov. 15:17).
The Fig Tree
21:18 Now early in the morning, as he returned to the city, he was hungry.
Early next morning, Jesus returned on foot to the city of Jerusalem. We have no reason to doubt that he had been offered breakfast by his hosts at Bethany, but nevertheless he was hungry.
21:19 After noticing a fig tree by the road he went to it, but found nothing on it except leaves. He said to it, "Never again will there be fruit from you!" And the fig tree withered at once.
God had provided fruit trees as food for people (Gen. 2:9). We are not sure if before mankind fell into sin, the trees bore fruit every month, as they do (typically) in heaven (Rev. 22:2). Yet the fig tree was not in season, and so was not fulfilling the purpose God had for it. The creator himself was unable to find food on it. By inference, the people of Jerusalem were not fulfilling God’s will, and whereas the master should have found the fruit of love and obedience, he found the bitterness of rejection. What happened to the fig tree would be a picture of what would happen to Jerusalem as a result of their rejection.
21:20 When the disciples saw it they were amazed, saying, "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?"
The withering of the fig tree was noticed immediately, and its complete death was referred to by Peter later that day. They had seen Christ heal immediately, perhaps their amazement stemmed from the fact that they had never before seen Christ’s word acting in judgment.
21:21 Jesus answered them, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' it will happen.
Here Jesus uses the withered fig tree as an object lesson of faith for his disciples. What he had done, they would do, if they have faith in God. Indeed, by faith in God nothing is impossible. God does not wish us to tell mountains to fall into the sea, but should he call upon us to do so, we can.
21:22 And whatever you ask in prayer, if you believe, you will receive."
When we pray, we must bear in mind the mighty power of God, and believe that we will receive; else what is the point of prayer? If we believe that God hears and has answered us, we shall receive from him the answer.
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This Bible study is taken from Faithbuilders: The Gospel of Matthew